Though Ohio State has yet to officially release its non-conference schedule for the 2014-2015 season, by this point, we pretty much know everything there is to know about the Buckeyes' upcoming schedule. Aside from a possible late addition or some fidgeting with dates and/or times, the schedule has been set.
Many overlook what the non-conference season means to a college basketball team, but the fact is that the decisions athletic departments make in scheduling outside the conference can have huge ramifications going forward. Balancing things like schedule difficulty, prominent opponents, and neutral court events have become major challenges.
Obviously, performing based on your schedule is the most important factor, but look at a team like Indiana last season. The Hoosiers slated themselves with a pretty difficult schedule that featured no legitimate opponents at home. Indiana won no major non-conference games as a result. If Indiana gets a big opponent at home and pull out a win, maybe they sneak into the Big Dance. Unfortunately for them, it didn't work out that way. In short, a non-conference schedule can either boost or hinder a team depending on how it was set up.
With that in mind, it seemed like an appropriate time to sit down and see what the Buckeyes have upcoming for next season.
Here is what Land Grant Holy Land (SBnation's Ohio State site) has for OSU's 2014-2015 Schedule:
Ohio State 2014-2015 Non-Conference Schedule:
- Nov. 14 -- UMass-Lowell
- Nov. 18 -- Marquette
- Nov. 23 -- Sacred Heart
- Nov. 26 -- Campbell
- Nov. 28 -- James Madison
- Dec. 2 -- at Louisville
- Dec. 6 -- Colgate
- Dec. 10 -- High Point
- Dec. 13 -- Morehead State
- Dec. 20 -- North Carolina (Chicago, IL)
- Dec. 22 or Dec. 23 -- Miami (OH) (May potentially be at Nationwide Arena)
- Dec. 27 or Dec. 28 -- Wright State
Overall, an interesting schedule with quite a bit of range. Some of the teams look to be at the top of the NCAA next year and others will struggle to get a handful of wins. To help break things down, I have divided these games into three different tiers.
These are your cream of the crop type of games. These are the ones that not only get your fans' blood boiling, but turn national heads as well. If you are going to make a serious run at a high seed in March, these are the type of games you need to win.
Here are the major non-conference opponents for OSU in 2014-2015 according to last year's KenPom rating:
- #1 - Louisville
- #27 - North Carolina
Let's put this simply. The top end of Ohio State's 2014-2015 non-conference schedule is elite. When you're talking about facing Louisville and North Carolina, you can't get much better. During the last 7 years, these two programs have combined for 4 appearances in the Final Four and more importantly, 2 national championships. Along with that, both teams have made the NCAA Tournament in every year during that span, aside from a lone slip-up by UNC, in a year where they still made the NIT Final.
Winning these games is going to be very tough, but if OSU can even go 1-1 in these games, their non-conference performance is going to be widely regarded as a success, especially with Louisville on the road.
This is where some of the subjectivity comes into play. Louisville and North Carolina are clearly major opponents, even if they don't live up to the hype, they're still going to be perceived as big games on the schedule. Moving down, I tried to separate the teams that placed outside of the top 50-60 on KenPom into the quality teams category. These are opponents that will build your RPI and resume, but don't turn the dial like the major opponents and are generally regarded as pretty beatable.
Here are the quality non-conference opponents for OSU in 2014-2015 according to last year's KenPom rating:
- #76 - Marquette
- #124 - Wright State
As I said, this is worthy of some discussion here. Marquette, to some, deserves to be in the top group. On the other hand, there are some that believe they are actually going to be on the edge of this category. To me, they're probably going to be right in the middle here. A good, solid opponent, but not one that really is in it for things like the Final Four.
Wright State is also an interesting opponent. If they can even come close to what they did last year, they will be a boost to OSU's resume. People overlook it, but generally, if you beat a Top 100-150 opponent, it's going to help you more than hurt you most times.
The best news for OSU fans has to be that both of these teams are coming to Columbus. This is a good opportunity to score some solid wins at home and help the resume.
Potential RPI Pitfalls
These are simply your schedule "fillers." Every team in the nation is going to schedule some teams that are simply awful over a given season. There are just too many games during the season to legitimately try and fill up the entire schedule with top end or quality opponents.
Here are the potential RPI pitfalls for OSU in 2014-2015 according to last year's KenPom rating:
- #180 - Morehead State
- #187 - Colgate
- #226 - Miami (OH)
- #228 - High Point
- #267 - James Madison
- #297 - Sacred Heart
- #325 - UMass Lowell
- #328 - Campbell
In all honesty, there isn't a ton to comment on here outside of simply stating: DO NOT LOSE. One could make an argument that Morehead State and Colgate could end up being decent wins, but the honest truth here is that OSU needs to win all of these games. I would say they need to win them convincingly - at least for fan sanity - but the RPI does not count margin of victory, so it does not really matter. Simply win these games and avoid the massive hit that would come with any loss.
The Buckeyes certainly do not have the best or most difficult schedule in the nation, but it should be a nice set-up for a young team to get comfortable playing together. There will only be one truly difficult environment (Louisville) and plenty of opportunities to pick up wins and develop. We don't know how the Buckeyes will look this season yet, but there should certainly be some exciting games.